National Waterways Festival 2007

Yesterday Abi and I headed over to St. Ives (the easterly one), where the National Waterways Festival was taking place. Dad’s in charge, and I don’t think he’d deny this year’s event has been more stressful than most.

Over 300 narrowboats attend, and two months ago a train derailment closed the main canal route into the area. The shipment spilled into the water, which was bad enough, but the bridge involved was damaged enough to be structurally unsound. Initial estimates said it wouldn’t re-open until early September. Then, a month ago, everything flooded. Canals and rivers were impassable, and, worst of all, the festival site itself was under 0.7m of water. Not long after, a waterlogged bank threatened to slip and block a secondary route.

Thankfully. things worked out: the bridge ended up being completely demolished, meaning canal traffic could resume. The landslip didn’t happen / was easily sorted (not sure of the details here) and the festival site drained enough for setup to begin. Rain last week meant it was extremely muddy, and although this dried out over the weekend, there were still some bad patches:

Muddy areas on the festival site

Happily, after a wet Friday the weather was excellent for the rest of the three-day-weekend, and visitor numbers were high. Given the summer so far, this was a great relief.

Relaxing at the end of the festival

Much of the festival consists of trade stands, but there’s a good amount of general crafty business too. Jewellery, ornaments, suspiciously bizarre shoes and general chocolate snackery abounded, and, shortly after raiding the second-hand book stall, I saw this:

The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens

Do not mock. Wikipedia cannot be trusted when it comes to chickens, so this is a worthy investment.

It’s been remarked that I complain about the small things, and make them seem larger than they are relative to the entire event. Which is true. On the whole, the festival is a good thing. Nevertheless, I have issues with some of the stalls. I could just about be persuaded that alternative medicine stalls should be allowed, providing they don’t make claims about curing cancer / things that matter, but those that simultaneously promote their own ‘set up your own business’ pyramid schemes are just evil. Still, it could be worse.

The festival site was directly next to St. Ives, which made a change from the usual field-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, and it was pleasant to wander around town in the afternoon sun. I couldn’t help noticing that most of the shops were closed, though. On a sunny bank holiday, with a huge festival 100m away. Can’t help wondering whether they’re the same people who complain about chain stores taking over…There was a large market, though, and the town itself was very pretty.

Fun times, and definitely worth the 100min drive there and back.